Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Skyscrapers of the Midwest #1

Skyscrapers of the Midwest is a complete artistic success. There's wonderful sequential storytelling, beautiful design, insightful observation, and stunning, unique art.

And I'm never buying another issue.

That old breakup saw, "It's not you, it's me?" Well ... it is me. Back in my youth I drank my coffee black, smoked my Camels unfiltered, and wanted my art raw. "Brutal", "unflinching", and "harsh" were the codewords to my vision of the theatre. Art was about confronting the harsh realities of life, and it was only pathetic suburbanites who wanted happy endings. I'm not sure when it all changed (though I feel confident fatherhood was a big step), but artistic nihilism now seems as much a symptom of my youth as Lost Weekends and Technicolor Yawns.

Even in this first issue of Skyscrapers of the Midwest, the tone of depression is set in stone. Barely halfway through we're already joking about the bleakness of the emotional landscape. The only humor here is the kind seen in "Going to Grandma's" where the morbid punchline is the violent end of a loving grandma whose crime was showing love and affection to two small children. In Skyscrapers of the Midwest, that's a capitol offense. Joy only exists to be taken away.

I realize the seeming hyprocrisy. I readily devour the latest chapter of The Grim Fin-Headed House Of CrisisWar, yet am put off by the heartbreak of Skyscrapers of the Midwest. The difference is in the art. Batman's angst over building a killer satellite doesn't exactly fill me with empathy, but the terror of an abusive father or the cruelty of the playground does. Joshua Cotter is an artist of note, and his stories are grimly effective.

Perhaps I have gone soft. Perhaps the sneering my 23-year-old self would point my way is justified. I just can't help think that I don't need that from my art any more: I've lost an estranged father, cared for a premature child, and daily battle to be the father and husband I want to be. I don't need simple escapism, but I think now that art is just as courageous and valuable talking about dream horses and the beauty of children ... maybe more so.

I can't deny the art of Joshua Cotter's Skyscrapers of the Midwest. I tried to give it another read before writing this, and couldn't complete the book: it's powerful stuff. A decade ago, I would have fallen in love with Skyscrapers of the Midwest. I've changed, perhaps lessened by not being able to enjoy a book like this anymore. But it's a fine thing when there's so much good art to be had, you can pass on those things that simply don't appeal.



the Isotope Communique said...

Now me? I love the thing with all my frighteningly-gigantic-overflowing-with-comic-love heart.

But I'm glad you gave it a try anyway, especially considering it was me who got you excited about reading it. So glad in fact that I want you to do this.

#1. Go through a Previews and pick out ten bucks worth of comics you want to try #2. Email me your list with your shipping address. #3. Pass along your two issues of SKYSCRAPERS to someone you think might like them.

- James

Mark Fossen said...

That's a nice offer, Mr. Sime. You're a King among Men, and I look forward to buying you a beer (or a Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch) when I am next in the Bay.

You were not the only one, though. I've heard it's praises sung by many - JRod, Guy, the SFist, and others. And I can completely understand where they are coming from.

And I don't mind taking one on the nose for Comix. It's not like it's bad. In fact, the opposite. It's amazing ... just not for my current tastes. I'll keep it for my collection, and perhaps see it differently in the future.

If someone wants to refund me for Rann/Thanagar War ... I'm all ears. :)

Jason said...

Mr. Sime is the definition of gentleman.

And Mark, appreciate the honesty - I understand where you're coming from and I don't think you're completely wrong - just completely stupid.

Just kidding.

the Isotope Communique said...

>If someone wants to refund me for Rann/Thanagar War ... I'm all ears.<

I'm not touching that one.

- James